On June 10th, 2022, millions of people sat in their offices, sweating through their business clothes as they sent their last handful of pre-weekend emails.
Meanwhile, Beth Healey was on a paddle board.
As senior manager of PMO at driver risk management company SambaSafety, she was taking advantage of the first of their Summer Fridays — a new program that gives every employee alternating Fridays off work from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
“I have a son that’ll be eight in two weeks,” Healey said. “That’s why this program impacted me so much. Our kids are only going to like us for so long, so it’s important we spend time with them.”
Instead of opening up her computer to a calendar packed with Zoom calls and deadlines, Healey and her eight-year-old son drove up to Soda Lake to go paddle boarding for the first time.
“Calling it a lake is a bit much,” said Healey with a smile. “For Colorado, it’s more like a pond.”
Size of the water body notwithstanding, Healey and her son spent the day with a cool, aquatic breeze on their faces and the satisfying tug of a paddle cutting across a lake that was totally free of weekend crowds.
“My son loved every second of it,” Healey said. “On the way home, he asked if we could go find another lake and do it again. We’re going to try to explore new places on our Fridays off — that’s the commitment we made to each other. We have seven Summer Fridays, so that’s seven new places.”
Erika Sanders, SambaSafety’s compliance and manual order processing specialist, is also enjoying some extra time with her daughter — and her bed.
“My standing plan for every Summer Friday is a nap,” she said. “But last week, I got my daughter early — I don’t usually have her on Fridays. I picked her up from day camp and we got to hang out.”
During the workweek, Samba’s employees are dedicated and busy — and Summer Fridays are a great way to show that the company trusts and appreciates their people and the work they put in. Samba’s team returned to work the following Monday, re-invigorated and prepared for the push to the next day off.
A Way to Give Back
“With everything going on externally with the pandemic and its related difficulties, there’s an additional level of stress that probably hasn’t been felt in a generation. Our thought process was: We really value our people, we’ve really created a team-focused culture. I wanted to look at how we could amplify that culture and continue to give that to all of our teammates.”
This was the thought process for Kevin Lawlor, vice president of human resources, when he proposed Summer Fridays to Samba’s leadership.
“We thought that one good way to give back was to give people additional downtime to spend with friends and family,” he said. “If I want to take PTO, I’m going to be beaten up with emails when I get back and get overwhelmed — it’s not always a true vacation that way.” Instead, employees can take Summer Fridays guilt-free, knowing that the whole company is away from their computers.
Lawlor had studied four-day workweeks in the past, and the results had been promising — companies that implement them often experience an increase in productivity, rather than the expected decrease from less time in the office. So when the opportunity came to suggest something similar for Samba, Lawlor seized the chance.
The four-day workweek around the world:
- A survey of 5,000 UK companies by Henley Business School found that two-thirds of employers that implemented the four-day workweek saw a rise in productivity and work quality.
- Microsoft Japan reported a productivity boost of 40 percent.
- 84 percent of California company Bolt’s employees reported being more productive.
“Our CEO, Allison, had asked what other benefits we can offer, and mentioned sabbaticals. I thought: Here’s my opportunity to insert a four-day workweek and see what the reaction is. I kind of held my breath, and then there was some silent clapping — the team reacted very positively.”
While the fast-paced nature of the company meant that they couldn’t jump to a firm four-day workweek, Lawlor is hopeful that similar programs will be implemented in the future. Summer Fridays, at least, have been received enthusiastically by the team.
“I want to buy Kevin a cup of coffee,” Healey said, with a grin.
Despite the reduction in hours, Summer Fridays haven’t caused a reduction in productivity — in fact, the truth is the exact opposite. Having the extra day off not only allows Samba’s employees to return refreshed and rested. In addition, planning for the shortened week has changed their approach to work for the better.
“Knowing you have that additional day off coming up sharpens your focus for the days you’re actually working,” said Lawlor.
Summer Fridays is a display of trust in the work ethic of Samba’s employees — that their ambition and drive to do well means that they will be able to manage their workload even with the shorter week. For Healey’s team, it’s been a chance to re-evaluate their time priorities.
“It’s about having a focused agenda — deciding what really needs to be accomplished and being more direct and focused during the shorter weeks. We try to be more thoughtful about which meetings we need to have and which can be an email,” said Healey.
On the processing side, Erika Sanders discovered an unexpected perk of the shortened week: teamwork.
“If I notice there’s a couple things I won’t be able to get done by the end of the day, I just have to reach out to someone on whatever side it is,” said Sanders. “They’ll be like, ‘no worries, I’ve got time,’ or one of us will stay a few minutes late — we’re like, ‘we got this.’”
On the full week, Sanders’ team works together to accomplish as much as possible — and on the four-day week, they put their heads and hands together to make sure everyone can enjoy their day off. This attitude is present across the entire company.
“Samba is more ambitious than any other company I’ve worked for — in a positive way,” said Healey. “I have no doubt that every single person here is working 100 percent while they’re here those four days one week and five the next.”
Employees at SambaSafety work hard, because the work they do is important — helping companies manage the risk of their drivers can save lives. But leadership also recognizes that when people work hard, they need to be rewarded in kind. Summer Fridays are just one of the benefits Samba uses to show its employees respect, trust and humanity.
Other SambaSafety benefits:
- 100% employer paid premiums for one of their medical plans
- Samba contributes up to $1,000 towards employee’s HSAs
- Up to 12 weeks paid time off for maternity leave
- $2,500 employee referral program
- 401k matching
- Christmas parties, summer picnics and other outings
- Flexible hybrid work environment
“It’s all things that seem small, but I don’t think anyone takes it for granted,” said Healey. “When you get into the office, you want to say hi to everyone and catch up. It’s a great, great place.”
And with Summer Fridays in place, the team will have plenty of adventures to catch each other up on in those morning conversations.